Which “Green” Products are Worth the Extra Cost?

posted by Andrea | 02/22/2012

Now days, it seems like there is a new “green”, “natural”, “organic”, and/or “eco-friendly” alternative for every product on the market — and the main difference I see between these “green” products and the other “regular” products is the price!

“Green” products ALWAYS seem to be more expensive! 

And while I definitely AM in favor of protecting our environment, reducing the amount of chemicals we put in and on our bodies, and lowing our energy consumption… I have to wonder if this is just a marketing tactic for some companies.

Honestly, is it REALLY necessary to pay more for “organic parchment paper” when regular parchment paper is already eco-friendly? And is it REALLY necessary to pay more for “natural” body lotion when I don’t even know what “natural” means?

I think the one that makes me laugh the most is General Mills cereal — they now have more “whole grains” and are marketing Lucky Charms as “healthier”.  I have absolutely nothing against cereal or against General Mills, but if people are really willing to believe that Lucky Charms could possibly be a “healthy” breakfast… they are just buying right into these marketing tactics!

I’m sure you’ve all seen, heard, and read stories about companies using these “green” words to lure buyers into paying more for their products — and I have to believe the stories are true.

You would not believe all the junk mail and spam emails I’ve gotten since Nora was born — all trying to make me feel like a horrible mother if I don’t use only “green” baby products {for 2 to 3 times the prices}!

I do know there are certain fruits and vegetables that are important to buy “organic” {see this handy printable chart} but other than that, I honestly don’t have enough information to know when it’s just a marketing ploy or when it’s “for real”.

What are your thoughts on paying more for “green”?

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19 comments

  1. Christine

    02/22/2012

    I have had a “female problem” diagnosis and have done research. Apparently, some of the ingredients in health care products are excerbators of breast cancer, particularly one called parabens. However, I do not buy organic produce. I heard if you soak it with hydrogen peroxide, it gets the chemicals off.

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    Jen Reply:

    Oh, my goodness, that’s not true at all! In fact, produce with soft skins (like peaches, strawberries, apples, etc.) can actually soak the pesticides into the fruit. You don’t have to go organic on things like bananas and pineapples (though I think they taste better), but whether you change your mind or not, I would encourage you to search the “produce dirty dozen” and read about what produce is the most infested with poisons.

    And you are spot on about parabens. It’s wise to look for words like Pthalates and BPA and avoid items containing those things if you’re interested in decreasing chemical consumption. Heating food in plastic containers is a major contamination culprit.

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    Allison Reply:

    Jen, I completely agree about the plastic food containers! I received pyrex glass food storage containers for christmas and I LOVE them. I wince when I look at the price but I think they are a good investment and better for body and budget in the long run! I can reheat in them without worrying about chemicals and I find that I am using them more for food storage as well. I have already noticed I’m not buying as much foil/plastic wrap/sandwich bags and I even find them easier to clean than plastic containers that get old, gross and stained!

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    Christine Reply:

    I have also just recently read that even the BPA free plastics heated are bad for you. http://voices.yahoo.com/study-suggests-bpa-free-plastics-no-good-8003772.html?cat=25

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  2. Thrifty Military Mommy

    02/22/2012

    I totally agree with you. All of those green “alternatives” in the regular grocery stores for the most part are not really that good and super expensive. The only thing I’ve found comparable as far as “green” goes is the 7th generation. Still, I think it’s too expensive.

    I’ve found that making my own homemade products–which call mostly for baking soda, water, and vinegar–and also buying from Shaklee is the best as far as thriftiness goes. I bought shaklee’s basic H2 for only $16 over a year ago and I still have most of the bottle left. I’m quite sure it’ll last me for at least 5 years. They have many other products that are totally natural and good for you for great prices.

    And in case you’re wondering, I DON’T sell shaklee. I just really really really LOVE their products, lol.

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  3. Anjana

    02/22/2012

    Check out healthy child healthy world. You can be green and not pay a fortune.

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  4. Truffles Magazine

    02/22/2012

    Andrea,
    To simply answer this “natural” is not something I would spend that extra $ on – if your choosing between a “natural” label and regular may I suggest saving your $ and not buying the natural without reading the ingredient list. I know people right now think I am crazy reading this, but please understand natural isn’t always better I mean some products are from natural substances in the earth, yet you don’t want to put something derived from crude oil on your skin, right. My suggestion is to look directly at the label of ingredients, there are certain ingredients you want to avoid because they are toxic or cancer causing.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
    Perfume / Parfum / synthetic fragrance
    Parabens
    DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (momoethnanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine)
    Triclosan

    The best way to use “green” products is 1) to make your own formulas at home – since you already do so many of these you know firsthand how much $ you save and I find lots of great formulas on the internet
    2)Like your chart above lists organic produce because its obviously important what we put in our bodies, and for those that can’t afford organic my best suggestion plant a small garden of the 3-4 veggies and 3-4 fruits you regularly eat and then use a natural homemade spray (not a store bought one) to spray your plants
    3) 1 way I have saved a lot of money is by shopping online for my green items – I love using Mountain Rose Herbs they have a great oil selection I use for my skin, I buy items in bulk from Amazon to save $ (baking soda, etc)
    4) Going green should be important things that don’t cost lots of money, like using reusable shopping bags, reusable water bottles, cloth napkins, and re-purposing used items to take on a new life – anyone can do this relatively easily and what a different it would make if more people did

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  5. Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead

    02/22/2012

    The list that Truffles Magazine posted of the chemicals to watch out for is totally fabulous. I think that with a baby, you want to be a bit more concerned about the products you’re using on their hair and skin because you don’t need to expose them to all that right off the bat.

    I make a lot of my own products for our daughter, from diaper wipes to diaper rash spray…and it was primarily because the store-bought stuff was wreaking havoc on her skin and using homemade stuff just worked better for us.

    You already make a lot of your own cleaning products, so you’re totally good there. And as far as organic produce goes, sometimes it’s just not worth it. But I do think that if you are able to support your local farms in the process by going to farmers markets or directly to the farm, it’s often worth paying just a little more to know your beef and chicken aren’t pumped full of antibiotics — plus it just tastes better. :)

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  6. Leigh

    02/22/2012

    My 5 lb bag of Baking Soda was a great green product really worth the $$ ( or rather the ¢¢¢). It goes great with hot water and a reusable rag (the feet of holey sweatsocks, cut open are fabulous)

    The greenest products are the ones you don’t buy and do with out. They are also free, require no maintenance or storage space.

    That said, I do buy hand soap with out SLS (it dries my hands out, and with diaper changes, I wash my hands a lot), pretty green shampoo for me and the kids. It was worth spending more on a more efficient washing machine, toilet, faucet etc. I cook pretty meatless, but think grass fed, humane, etc is worth it when we do eat it. Cloth diapers took some money up front, but are far greener, nicer and better working, not to mention far cuter and we are well past the break even point.

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  7. Miranda

    02/22/2012

    I use produce from our garden and that’s about as organic as you can get! I do buy normal fruits and some veggies from the store.

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  8. Truffles Magazine

    02/22/2012

    Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead is right, you need to worry about products on the skin for a baby. I can testify to that – as an adult I was using a quite expensive rather famous brand facial wash last summer at first my skin was so smooth and soft to the touch, then after 3 weeks or so my skin (especially the cheeks) started to not only look red but stay red after washing. So I read the back of the bottle – SLS which I might add these results I had are actually quite typical. I immediately threw out the product, and yes it was my fault for buying it but I try to warn others who think green products are not important in their skincare.

    There was something I forgot to type in my list before:
    Avoid colors like (yellow 5, blue 40, red 5 etc. these colors are not natural pigments and can really wreak havoc on skin).

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  9. keri M.

    02/22/2012

    I completely agree that making your own (everything, if possible) is the way to go. Homemade foods and lotions by definition do not have confusing, chemicals in them. I’ve found that homemade foods taste better, are healthier, and less expensive than store-bought. I’ve also found some simple homemade cleaning products and lotions that are way better than store bought also. I’m happy to share details if people are interested :)

    Keri

    [Reply]

    Deni Reply:

    I would like to know what homemade cleaning products and lotions you are using. I’m already using the homemade cleaning solution that Andrea posted about (vinegar and Dawn dish detergent). It cleans better than anything that I have used!

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  10. Julie

    02/23/2012

    For Lotions you need nothing more than olive oil(with a bit of essential oil of your choice if you prefer it scented) or coconut oil.

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  11. Beth

    02/24/2012

    EWG skin deep is an on-line resource for educating yourself on various ingredients in products as well as a BIG database to look up personal care products and their safety. They use a rating system that’s easy to use/follow. Crunchy Betty is a favorite blog (in addition to this one) who posts and researches homemade beauty recipes and the occasional homemade cleaning recipes. The writer is fabulous!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Beth!
    I visit Crunch Betty from time to time too. Maybe I’ll have to head on over there today!

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  12. Tara

    02/24/2012

    I rarely buy “organic” and “natural” products at the store. In my experience, they have just as many chemical-based ingredients as the original versions. I do look out for some substances (listed above by other commenters), and I avoid those. For things that will touch my children (soaps, shampoos, and lotions, especially), I look for a product without anything strange in the ingredients. California Baby has always been my favorite. Our pediatric dermatologist recommended it by name.

    Common sense goes a long way, in my opinion. As others have said, look at the ingredients. Use glass instead of plastic for heating foods. Least chemical cleaners that will do the job. You’ll be fine.

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  13. Ava

    03/01/2012

    Sometimes it really does seem like a branding thing – greenwashing. Other times, green/organic/natural products are more expensive because of higher quality ingredients, fewer fillers, better productions values, fare wages paid to workers, small production runs, etc. I’m very, very sensitive to toxins, even the ones that most people don’t tend to have obvious, immediate reactions to (for instance, the volatile organic compounds that fresh latex paint off-gases give me horrible migraines, even a year or two after painting!), so for very practical as well as concern-for-the-planet reasons, I have to be careful about what I’m around and what I eat. But I’m also on a graduate student’s budget!

    So we buy organic produce whenever it’s available – or we buy local produce that we know has minimal or no pesticide usage even if it’s not certified organic, but unless there’s a sale, we don’t buy organic milk. I don’t buy any cleaning products – I use combinations of different natural ingredients for different cleaning tasks, like spraying on white vinegar for window cleaner, or using that same spray bottle of vinegar, along with another spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide, to disinfect. That approach is both natural and inexpensive, even if it can be a bit more bother. (It would be less bother if I kept multiple spray bottles of vinegar around so I didn’t keep losing them!)

    I highly recommend Ellen Sandbeck’s books, especially Organic Housekeeping, later reissued as Green Housekeeping. She has all kinds of great information on doing non-toxic, natural housekeeping while spending less rather than more, and trying to save time as much as possible. I *love* that book, and it’s extremely straightforward and helpful – and also funny! I think you’d enjoy it, and find it very useful for conundrums like this one.

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  14. Jessica

    04/16/2013

    Wanted to suggest a green product that works great. Just go to their website and look at the testimonials. It is truly a miraculous product. I make a lot of my own cleansers too but use this one for the heavy lifting. It is especially effective on grease and plastics and hard water scale!!
    It’s also better and safer than Dawn, for sure!! http://biogreenclean.com/

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